If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Oh dear, oh dear

I sure hope this doesn't go ahead:

An Islamic group said to have links to an extremist movement is planning to march through the Wiltshire town of Wootton Bassett. The town has become famous for honouring British war dead returning from Afghanistan. Islam4UK pledged the protest would be peaceful with symbolic coffins representing Muslim victims.

Islam4UK is said to call itself a "platform" for the extremist movement al-Muhajiroun.

On its website the group said it was "totally unacceptable" to honour servicemen who had contributed "directly or indirectly" to the deaths of "well over 100,000 Muslims in Afghanistan in the last 8 years".

"We at Islam4UK find this totally unacceptable and as a result have decided to launch the 'Wootton Bassett March' to highlight the real casualties of this brutal Crusade," the website states.

If this is allowed to go ahead, I fear real trouble. I mean real trouble.

The gathering of ordinary people at Wootton Bassett when soldiers are repatriated is not organised by Westminster or the armed forces themselves; it is seemingly an example of a genuine outpouring of feelings - of respect for the armed forces and the sacrifices they make on our behalf. I cannot remember anything like it happening before, and I reckon that at least part of the drive to go there and pay one's respects is due to the shameful neglect of the forces that we have seen under this Government. (I spoke to a man collecting for the Poppy Appeal in November, and he said that donations - and those for Help for Heroes - had been higher than ever. The fact that there is now room for two charities benefiting ex-servicemen is testament to a change in public feelings.)

If Islam4UK decide to hold a march - peaceful, in the way that the British Union of Fascists' march through Cable Street in 1936 was peaceful - then I fear that the public reaction will be both overwhelming and violent. Regardless of the intentions of the proposed march (which may or may not be truthful), the British public - those who go to Wootton Bassett and those who do not - will see it as a slap in the face for our armed forces, who have already been treated with disdain by our own Government. Regardless of whether we support the decision to go to war in Afghanistan, we know that our troops deserve our support, and we don't take insults to them (for that is how it will be perceived) lightly. I would predict a huge turnout of people, some of whom will want to be there as peaceful witnesses to Britain's support for its army, and some of whom will be there for a fight. The outcome will, inevitably, be serious disturbances, and I am convinced that there will be the potential for fatalities. If the march goes ahead, and Islam4UK supporters are injured or killed, then the international reaction will make the Mohammed cartoon issue look like a playground spat. For one thing, it will give any crackpot outfit in the Islamic world the 'justification' that they need to bomb any target in the UK. For another, it might just force the British public into a much more polarised viewpoint on Islam in general, and that would be no good at all for society.

But, of course, that is the purpose of the proposed march.

I believe in the right to peaceful protest, and I don't like the idea of banning people's rights to say what they think, but in this case I think the authorities should just say no. Allowing the march to go ahead could be a catalyst for a complete change in attitude by ordinary British people, and I don't think the results will be at all pretty.

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